The Opioid Crisis, Soylent, and Retaining Humanity

Red opium poppy plants. Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

I learned recently that Americans are the highest opioid users per capita in the world. That was no surprise. However, this next fact made me stop and think: there is no evidence that Americans experience any more pain than people from other countries.

A 2019 Lancet study found that the use of opioid analgesics (painkillers) in the USA far exceeds its use in other nations. The US population consumed 68% of the world’s prescribed opioids between 2011 and 2013, despite only making up 4.25% of the global population. What’s going on?

Concrete ways to take your writing to the next level

Photo by Nguyen Nguyen from Pexels

What distinguishes good writing from bad writing? Most of us intuitively know the difference as we are reading, for some reason may tend to forget as we sit down to write a piece. Here are some of my reflections, from reading and writing on Medium for 3 months so far.

1. Use accessible language

We get it, you studied SAT vocabulary and wrote a couple essays for English class in high school. I don’t care about your education, or how complicated your topic is—there is no excuse for not using language that is clear and easy to understand. This is true if you are…


And why this is the wrong thing to call for right now

The Terracotta Army (210–209 BCE), protecting the first emperor of China in the afterlife. Photo by Manoj kumar kasirajan on Unsplash

An extremely disorganized, confusing, and infuriating article was published in The Atlantic in late April 2020. The title and subtitle are tame enough: “Doctors Are Holding Up Their End of the Bargain. Society Is Not. | Sending health-care workers into hospitals with too few masks is a betrayal akin to sending soldiers into battle without armor.”

At first glance, it seems to echo the calls made by healthcare workers for more personal protective equipment (PPE), as hospital supplies run precariously low and the number of new COVID cases continue to grow. On closer examination, however, the author has a much…


That I believe have not been covered extensively already

Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

1. Racism is a health issue. Covid, and disease in general, is NOT the great equalizer. Black people are dying from Covid-19 at 3 times the rate as white people in America. Any “predisposing health factors” are a result of social determinants of health, which are a result of systemic racism. Being born with more melanin (skin pigment for blocking UV radiation) can be a crime and/or death sentence.


Things I wish someone told me, and things I still need to be reminded of

The Agnew Clinic — Thomas Eakins (1889). Dr. Agnew (left, holding scalpel) is performing a partial mastectomy in a medical amphitheater as University of Pennsylvania medical students observe. Public domain.

Starting medical school has been simultaneously the most exciting and the most overwhelming time of my life. Starting the Problem Based Learning (PBL) model at my program was a little analogous to being thrown into the deep end, where at least before there were familiar creatures like marked exams and projects — there is now a void of vague tutorial objectives, optional anatomy labs, and “professional competency”. It was very different from everything I was used to in terms of education, and combined with the friction of moving to a new city with new roommates, was and still is difficult…

Humility in medicine and in life

Photo by Jörg Angeli on Unsplash

The Hippocratic Oath is an oath of ethics traditionally taken by final year medical students as they graduate and become new physicians. In the modern version of the oath, new doctors are reminded of the importance of humility, and are encouraged to “not be ashamed to say ‘I know not,’ nor to call on colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.”

On first glance, the words “I know not” might not exactly inspire confidence to the ears of anxious and worried patients. …

A reminder of the limits of medicine

Clinician burnout is a huge problem in medicine, and can lead to lower patient care quality, higher medical error risk, physician alcohol and drug abuse and addiction, and physician suicide (source). In Canada, 30% of residents and practicing physicians report experiencing burnout (emotional exhaustion and/or depersonalization) at least weekly. Just last week, an emergency physician working in the COVID-19 units in New York died by suicide — now we don’t know the precise circumstances around her death, but based on the New York Times article, I think it is fair to say that stress from work likely played a role.

Spoiler…it’s $10 million USD.

I heard a fascinating podcast episode from Planet Money titled “Lives Vs. The Economy” recently, and it blew my mind.

It addressed the question that has been asked more and more recently in the public discourse: “is it ever worth it to shut down the economy to save lives?”, or in other words, “Why can’t we open back up? I need to go back to work! I need a haircut!”.

Flattening the curve. WIRED.

On the one hand, it takes nothing short of completely shutting down a country as per public health recommendations in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and…

Part of my story and what I learned from the process

I am a current second year medical student studying in Canada. Over the past couple years, I have had the pleasure to be able to give some advice and mentorship to friends in lower years. I personally reached out to many upper-year students for help when I was applying, so I am more than happy to give back. I recently had a call with a rising senior who was worried about the COVID-19 pandemic and how that might potentially affect his application. …

Self-management of anxiety in a stressful world

Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this is not medical advice. It is just what I learned from a recent (virtual) psychiatry lecture. Please contact your family physician if you need medical care, this includes anything to do with mental illness.

Photo by Aliaksei Lepik on Unsplash

We had a lecture recently from Dr. Jon Davine, a dual psychiatry and family medicine trained physician. The talk was about anxiety disorders, which I wasn’t too familiar with before if I’m being honest. …

Henry He

MD candidate and lover of stories. Writing about medicine, humanity, and the beautiful intersections between. My corner of the web: https://henryhe.me.

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